In order to reach across the aisle to those who have different social and political leanings, you need to get to the heart of the matter.


A BI-WEEKLY MESSAGE FROM KEVIN FONG
Getting to the Heart of the Matter
October 28, 2012
 

Leadership requires working from both the head and the heart.  For organizations, getting to the heart of the matter translates into a well-articulated vision statement.  While an effective mission statement speaks to the head, clearly outlining purpose, an effective vision statement speaks to the heart, using language that elicits a pause, a smile, and a warm glow.  Visions paint pictures of a desired result and should inspire people to take action.
 
For example, the Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation recently developed the following organizational vision statement -  
 
We envision a world where people affected by HIV lead healthy and productive lives - regardless of circumstances of birth, gender, sexual orientation, or geography - in communities free from the threat of HIV.
 
Arriving at this vision statement presented some challenges. The process forced Pangaea to consider how the inclusion of sexual orientation might play in certain countries where this issue is not discussed and where many individuals struggle under oppressive laws and taboos.  Pangaea took a political stand and determined to adopt the language with the understanding that their vision statement will determine just as much who will not stand with them as who will stand with them.
 
My observation of Pangaea’s process carried forward to the presidential debates where I noticed how each candidate did his best to navigate the language of the head and of the heart.  Following the debates, I had lively discussions with my family and friends who held different political leanings from mine.  We bantered about facts, records and five-step plans.  But we never really got to the heart of the matter, which for me, was  “How can I bring home what would it mean for me and my family if (either President Obama or Governor Romney) were elected?” The answer came to me late one night last week, when I posted this message on my Facebook page:
 
To my friends and family who are considering voting for Mitt Romney, please take note of the following on-the-record statements and actions he has made about gays, and replace “gays” with my name...
 
- "In my ideal world, Kevin would not be allowed to marry."
Of Kevin and parenting - "It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact.”
He donated $35,000 to the Becket Fund, which claims that “Kevin can be cured.”
He signed a pledge with the National Organization on Marriage that promises “to deny Kevin equal rights under the law.”

How do you think I would vote if it were YOUR human rights on the ballot?
 
I had to make politics personal in order to get to the heart of the matter.  I soon received a message from a relative saying, “I get it.”  While he wasn’t ready to change his vote, that mattered less than the fact that I had made a true connection with someone I love and respect.  The exchange gave us a common starting point to talk about issues like the economy, national security and health care. 
 
In order for conflicting parties to engage in effective communication, you first must get to the heart of the matter.  Once connected, you can create the commong space that allows you to work together and respect your differences. As we prepare for this momentous election, please find ways to make that connection, especially with those who disagree with you.  Regardless of the outcome on November 6th, we will need to stand and work together to create the world we aspire towa
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